The importance of gut flora in early infancyThe normal or abnormal structure of the flora early in life can affect our health throughout life. For example, things like overweight, obesity, immune disorders and chronic inflammatory problems can all be caused by abnormalities in the structure of the early flora.
Illnesses that develop by adulthood are rooted in our fault from yesterday. We now know that gut flora is very, very important to human health, and that the early establishment of flora, especially in infancy, may well determine our health throughout life.
Take for example childhood allergies.
Needless to say, many children's allergies are now causing many mothers to worry about them, and the biggest problem with allergies is that they are so unpredictable and unpredictable. But what you may not think of is that the root cause of these allergies in your child may be linked to the state of his gut when he was first born.
In a major study published in Nature Medicine in 2016, it was suggested that the specific gut microbes of young children at a young age could be directly linked to the development of allergies by the age of two and asthma by the age of four.
In these 'at-risk' infants, normal gut bacteria, such as bifidobacteria, which are abundant in children of the same age, are missing, while fungi, which should not be present in large numbers, are increased.
Scientists have further discovered that their gut flora metabolises substances such as a lipid oxide called 12,13-DIHOME, which significantly reduces the number of regulatory T cells, leading to an over-sensitive immune system and ultimately to inflammatory conditions such as allergies and asthma in the upper respiratory tract.
What is happening to my child's flora?Living conditions are getting better, but the flora is getting worse.
I don't mean to scare you. Just recently, an analysis of the diversity of infant flora was published in the top journal Science, which is well worth our attention. It turned out that the more industrialised the situation, the worse the diversity of the infant gut flora.
What we find most incredible is that as many as 745 species were found in the infant flora of Africa, and that nearly a quarter (23.4%) of these were species that had been completely lost from urban infants. Not only were the number of lost flora species in urban infants high, but they also generally lacked the genes for Bifidobacterium infantis and for breaking down breast milk oligosaccharides.
This is very similar to the results of many previous flora tests we have done on infants up to 1 year of age, and the scariest thing is that the bifidobacteria in the infant gut are declining dramatically, and this trend is not slowing down.
Infants aged 0-6 months have a small variety of bacteria in their gut and Bifidobacterium is typically the naturally dominant bacterium and the immune barrier in the gut. It not only has a good immunomodulatory effect and enhances the anti-inflammatory effect of cytokines, but also the metabolites provide energy to the intestinal epithelial cells, for example.
When the infant's innate immunity is weak, Bifidobacterium acts as an interplay with immune cells and regulates innate immunity and adaptive responses.
What should we do?
First, take advantage of the critical intervention periodThe so-called critical window is the point at the most appropriate time to intervene, and the health benefits are ten or even a hundred times greater than the compensations you make later.
The critical window for children's gut flora is now recognised to lie before the age of 3 years, a time period that almost coincides with the 0-1000 day window recommended by the WHO. The first 0-18 months of this period is the core of the critical period.
Secondly, try to have a normal birth and preferably breastfeedingThe key source of infant flora, whether in the gut or the skin, is the mother. From the time they are in the mother's womb to the day they are born, the mother's gut, reproductive tract and breast milk are the three key sources of healthy flora for the baby. There is an adage that seems to be true.
A healthy mother makes a healthy family.
But how can you expect to give your child the best strains of bacteria when many mothers have some underlying problems with their own flora?
I don't think we need to tell you the effects of a normal birth on your child. Remember girls during pregnancy, but whenever you can have a normal birth, let's do it, it's good for you and a great natural treasure for your child.
Breast milk has a completely incomparable advantage over formula milk. The short-chain fatty acids in breast milk, SCFAs, are a much-needed nutrient in the infant's early intestine, not only to maintain the integrity of the intestinal barrier and improve the infant's immune tolerance, but also to reduce the inflammatory response in the intestine and respiratory tract, thus enhancing the early immune system function.
For women who are prone to allergies, suffer from dermatitis or have chronic inflammatory conditions, we always strongly recommend two dietary modifications from pregnancy through to breastfeeding. One is to eat more foods high in dietary fibre and also supplement with prebiotics such as oligogalactose or inulin; on the other hand, try to consume more n3 unsaturated fatty acids, such as the high-dose fish oil that was popularised a while ago.
These seemingly insignificant supplements are likely to help your child suffer a lot less.
Thirdly, start with a dominant intervention strainTruth be told, we've given intervention advice to so many of our partners who have had their flora tested and also provided very targeted probiotic recommendations, but I've always felt that the most effective way is to improve your routine and restructure your diet.
But I suspect you'll sneer, what's the difference between saying that and not testing? That's what my grandma, who didn't go to primary school for a day, told me.
It sounds simple, but you can't really do it!
You can do it but you can't, and for little babies who haven't even had much exposure to complementary foods, it's really "passive" to try to improve their flora. For example, if you ask your baby expectantly, "Honey, why don't you go to bed at eight o'clock tonight? The baby seems to understand and pee on your face as an answer.
It's too much of an imposition.
The best and fastest way to improve flora is to supplement your baby's intestinal tract directly with the dominant probiotics that they need, as they are less diverse and easier to intervene with in the early years.
There are two main characteristics of probiotics for infants and children: firstly, it is not possible for infants and children to take capsules, so these probiotics need to be made into powder or liquid formulations to make them easier to take. Secondly, the total number of live bacteria is lower than that of adult preparations, with the number of live bacteria added generally ranging from 5-5 billion.